Learning to play the clarinet can be a positive and enriching experience for any music lover. However, to protect the appearance and ensure the quality of the sound coming from it, it's also important to take care of the piece. Use the clarinet maintenance tips below to protect your instrument.
Clean the Mouthpiece Every Few Days
Because you put your mouth on it every time you play, it's only proper that you keep the mouthpiece as clean as you can. Bacteria from your mouth can slowly eat away at the finish on the mouthpiece and ruin the way it looks. Every few days, you might want to wipe it down with instrument cleaner and use a stiff, small brush or old toothbrush to brush away any debris or gunk.
Balance the Reed Periodically
Periodically, you'll realize that the reed you're using starts to produce different sounds. That is typically because the reed is wearing unevenly, so the air that passes through your lips is not resonating in the same way. Once you start to notice that sounds are flatter or sharper than usual, it's time to get a new reed or balance the old one. Balancing your reed is a smart idea if you are looking to save money and time; the cost of reeds can build over time and you have to remember to run out to a store for them. Balancing the reed you're using will help it to last longer and is relatively simple to do.
How do you balance a reed? To do the job correctly, you'll need a reed trimmer or a small paring knife and a hard, flat surface. Take the reed out of your clarinet and look at the shape of the reed; you should be able to see how the shape is different than a new one. Slowly scrape some of the wood down until you've created symmetry and an even surface on the reed. You'll also need to keep some sanding paper handy to ensure that the finish is smooth and won't feel jagged once you put the reed to your lips. Make sure you wait until the reed is dry before you balance it, as a wet, just-played reed can be difficult to scrape.
Coat the Interior with Bore Oil
It's easy to forget that the wood inside your instrument also needs attention. A light oiling every now and then is a good idea for protecting the clarinet. Bore oil is the best oil for this job; coat a clarinet swab with the oil and then run it through the instrument as you would usually use a swab. You don't have to run the swab through the piece more than once, as you don't want a thick layer of oil inside the clarinet.
Learning to maintain your clarinet will help you to keep your clarinet sounding clear and strong. Talk with your music teacher or visit a music store, such as A.L.E., to learn more about caring for your instrument.